San Antonio, Do We Have a Problem?

How New Codes Force Decisions in Preparing Multi-tenant Com­mer­cial Properties

San Antonio published a technical bulletin last year that states that all multi-tenant buildings must have the insu­la­tion installed at shell phase (single tenant buildings do not). Other munic­i­pal­i­ties may go the same direction as San Antonio. 

One concern we have been hearing from quite a few architect and engineer contacts recently is the concern over insu­lat­ing retail buildings to the 2015 IECC energy codes. Many times, these multi-tenant retail devel­op­ments are designed and built before the property has been fully leased. They may have an anchor tenant in mind, but much of the building may be spec­u­la­tive. In the past, devel­op­ers were able to build a cold dark shell” building and wait for a tenant to sign up for a lease in order to finish the tenant improve­ments (TI) of the interior (interior walls, sheetrock, paint, lighting, elec­tri­cal, etc.). However, with the new building code it may become a mandate to have the insu­la­tion installed at the shell building phase rather than leaving it to the tenant phase.

This com­plex­i­ty in timing is making it difficult for devel­op­ers because it moves more cost earlier in the project, and causes them to install parts of the interior walls and elec­tri­cal prior to knowing who is going to be in the space and how they are going to want it finished out.

Projects con­struct­ed using CMU or concrete tilt panel would require insu­la­tion on the outside of the wall during initial con­struc­tion (which is not as common in Texas). Otherwise con­trac­tors would have to figure out a way to install the con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion system on the inside and meet fire code require­ments. Usually, this would mean that the sheetrock (fire ignition barrier) is installed over the insu­la­tion, which is something building owners want to avoid until they have a tenant ready to take the space.

The cost of building two walls for CMU and concrete tilt is a serious issue for that type of con­struc­tion in retail. One struc­tur­al engineer in San Antonio who does a lot of concrete tilt design says that for retail buildings, tilt panel is going to get phased out. 

Multi-tenant retail devel­op­ments continue to piqué the interest of investors and devel­op­ers for their flex­i­bil­i­ty of use, as well as for less invest­ment volatil­i­ty. However, with more stringent building codes in place, tra­di­tion­al wall systems such as tilt-up would require addi­tion­al expense and time to meet code require­ments. The Bautex Block Wall System is an all-in-one solution for cost, con­struc­tion time, structure, fire resis­tance, and con­tin­u­ous insu­la­tion. There are no addi­tion­al instal­la­tion steps to meet the new energy codes and tenants are allowed the same flex­i­bil­i­ty to finish the inside of the wall as they see fit. Devel­op­ers also appre­ci­ate a wall system that allows them to follow business-as-usual with multi-tenant buildings.